There would be no me without him. It's a hard truth for a bird of prey to accept; we generally do our best work alone — we want all the meat. But my best work has always been with him.
The first time I met him I was covering a Martin Luther King essay contest awards ceremony at public school headquarters. He was a part-time photographer. We shook hands and then he became this marvel of badass busting ass — climbing onto a desk to get a better vantage point, using a monopod to get birds-eye shots. It was a slip of a story and he worked it like a National Geographic piece.
Not long after he wanted to do a piece on cruising along Kansas and Kearney. We spent the next five weekends working off the clock. I turned in something like 70 column inches of copy and he handed over a couple dozen shots to the editors, and we asked them if they wanted to publish this stuff. I'm 26. He's 25. The editors gave it a Sunday section front and the great scam began.
(That's how we viewed it, at least. People with a printing press were letting us push boundaries and paying us to do it. Heh. Suckers.)
Pretty soon we're staying up for 24 straight with the cops, spending the night in a county lockup, watching a pathologist carve up the body of a woman. We tromped through every county in the Ozarks, met the most dangerous man in federal prison, survived a bizarre roadtrip to Chicago to cover an Elvis impersonators convention. All for the story. Anything for the story.
Dude created a tube kit to direct the light from his remote flashes. The fancy name for the lights was Bifurcated Transportable Cool as Hell, but that was just so we could call them BITCH lights. Boys.
The newspaper bosses furthered our scam by putting us in charge of the features section, where barely controlled mayhem ensued. In one mad blue-sky meeting we became convinced that the next fashion section should feature a bald mannequin, sometimes dismembered. It made perfect sense at the time and damn, it looked fine, even if it did piss off the advertisers. The word "bizarre" may have been thrown out there in some post-publication meeting, but that's such a subjective term, really, and hey, it got people talking. It evoked emotion.
Eventually we found ourselves in meetings with people willing to spend a lot of money to start a magazine. An impossible task for two dudes to do, which made it irresistible. When the first issue came back from the printer the publisher called and shouted into the phone: "You guys are rock stars."
It's always been about the collaboration with him. During interviews he instinctively knew when I was cycling to an emotional moment where he would find the shot; I would sense the camera lens inching past my shoulder and he would stroke the shutter at just the right instant.
We would work on projects and exchange glances that conveyed finished thoughts. He knew how I wrote and created images that amplified those words. I knew how he shot and wrote to the f-stop and depth of field. No seams, no stutters. It's never been that way with anyone else. Anything I write solo is not as good as a Wingo-Davis joint.
It has been years since we worked together. Today we had breakfast and a Kanye snippet kept running through my head: Refresh the page and restart the memory / Respark the soul and rebuild the energy.